The first few years of a hatchlings life are the most dangerous, as anything that can eat a small alligator will. Snakes, wading birds, osprey, raccoons, otters, large bass, garfish, even larger alligators will feed upon young alligators. Once the alligator reaches about 4 feet, its only real predator is man. Extremely thick skin protected by bony plates called scutes prevent harm from most attacks. It is this skin, though, which attracts man to alligators. It is commercially used for the creation of wallets, purses, boots, and other textiles.